Jepchirchir to defend NYC Marathon title, eyes course record

NEW YORK (AP) — Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Peres Jepchirchir plans to defend her title at the New York City Marathon, telling The Associated Press she hopes to break the course record this November after finishing 8 seconds off the mark last year.

Jepchirchir won the Olympic and NYC marathons four months apart in 2021, then won this spring’s Boston Marathon. She is the first athlete — male or female — to win all three events.

The Kenyan running star took the 50th NYC Marathon last November in a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, 39 seconds, the third-fastest in event history. Her sights are fixed on Margaret Okayo’s women’s record of 2:22:31 set in 2003, and she believes she can get there with a full summer to train.

“Last year, I was coming from the Olympics,” the 28-year-old told the AP. “This time, I have enough time to prepare.”

A two-time world champion in the half marathon, Jepchirchir wasn’t even on Kenya’s original Tokyo 2020 roster. She was added after a strong showing late in 2020 and won the race in Sapporo by 16 seconds. In New York, she pulled away from countrywoman Viola Cheptoo and Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia in Central Park, catapulting herself to the top of the sport.

“I was not expecting to win,” she said of Tokyo. “Come back again, I was not expecting to win the New York Marathon. I get more motivation, and I believed in myself more, that I can do more better than that.”

She held off Yeshaneh again at the finish of the 50th Boston Marathon, winning by 4 seconds. The elite field for this year’s NYC Marathon hasn’t been announced.

Jepchirchir, in New York this weekend to run the New York Mini 10K, cites countrywoman Mary Keitany as a key source of running inspiration. Keitany is a four-time NYC Marathon champion, and Jepchirchir hopes to join her as a multi-time winner. Grete Waitz has the most NYC Marathon titles with nine.

“My hope is to run like Mary Keitany, to follow the steps of Mary Keitany,” Jepchirchir said.

The NYC Marathon will run Nov. 6 at a full capacity of 50,000 runners for the first time since 2019. The 2020 event was canceled and the 2021 race went off with a shrunken field of 25,010 runners due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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